Risers and Fallers: Mike Moustakas, Russell Martin and Others

Ed Zurga

Alex Kantecki identifies a pair of risers and fallers for Week 18, including Mike Moustakas and Russell Martin.

Risers

Mike Moustakas

Mike Moustakas was supposed to break out last year. Mike Moustakas was supposed to break out this year. Someone -- probably me -- will tell you Mike Moustakas will break out next year. In reality, the 24-year old is doing what a bunch of young players, including his Kansas City teammate, Alex Gordon, have done in the past: fail to live up to lofty expectations early in their careers. In 2012, Moustakas hit .242/.296/.412 with 20 home runs, 69 runs and 73 RBIs. Assuming you didn't draft Moose as your primary third baseman (and it's possible you did), those are counting stats you could certainly live with. The same can't be said of his 2013 numbers, however, as Moustakas is hitting .234/.290/.374 with 10 home runs, 31 runs and (gasp!) 28 RBIs through 96 games. But after hitting .195 in April and .171 in May, Moustakas has turned it around, hitting .274 in June and .267 in July. The most encouraging signs for a sustainable turnaround are a slugging percentage that's gone up every month and a line drive rate in the 22.5% range over the last 60 or so days (up from 9.4% in May). Also encouraging in July was a .227 ISO, which includes a season-best four homers in the month. The Royals third baseman is still available in roughly 70% of ESPN leagues and could be a sneaky corner infield pickup for the stretch run -- in the last 30 days, he's batting .298 with a .853 OPS.

Russell Martin

When the Yankees decided not to re-sign Russell Martin and the catcher instead went to the Pirates, my initial reaction was, "Well, there goes Martin's value." In the (very) recent past, going from New York to Pittsburgh was like going from a strip steak to SPAM, but in Martin's case, the move from the AL to the NL has been a positive one. In 2012, Martin blasted 21 home runs with 50 runs, 53 RBIs and six steals -- along with a subpar .211 BA. Even with 21 blasts, Martin finished the year as the No. 20 catcher in ESPN leagues. So far this year, Martin has 10 home runs, 41 runs, 41 RBIs and nine steals in 87 games -- along with a much sturdier .252 BA. Those well-rounded numbers make Martin the No. 10 catcher in ESPN leagues, ahead of Victor Martinez and Matt Wieters. Last year, Martin was dragged down by a .222 BABIP -- the lowest BABIP of any player with 450 at-bats. Along with a much more normal .292 BABIP this time around, Martin has improved his strikeout and walk rate from a year ago. One of the biggest advantages of owning the Pirates backstop is the rare speed he provides at the catcher position. His nine steals and 13 attempts are his most since 2009 with the Dodgers (11 steals; 17 attempts), while the next closest catcher is Wilin Rosario with four thefts. While the power is down some, there aren't a whole lot of catchers capable of putting up better all-around numbers than Martin, who is still available in nearly 80% of ESPN leagues.

Fallers

Coco Crisp

After a hot start to the season that saw Coco Crisp smack five home runs and steal eight bags in April, things have predictably cooled down for the 33-year old veteran. In the three months and change that has passed since April, the Athletics outfielder has hit a total of five home runs and stolen a total of eight bases, effectively matching his first month stats while needing 141 more at-bats to get there. The most obvious problem for Crisp is a strikeout rate that's gone up every month (6% in April; 15.3% in July) and a walk rate that's gone down every month (14.5% in April; 7.2% in July), leading to fewer stolen bases and attempts. His HR/FB rate has also dropped off considerably after hitting 42.9% of fly balls in the opening month (his career fly ball rate is 34.7%). Over the last 30 days, Crisp has a .213 BA and .548 OPS with two home runs, 10 runs, six RBIs and one steal, yet he is still owned in 97% of ESPN leagues. I'd feel much more comfortable rostering the cereal outfielder if his patience at the plate returned to the levels he displayed in the opening month -- but there's no reason to believe that's going to happen anytime soon.

Adam Lind

A resurgent Adam Lind was a popular pickup in June, as the Blue Jays' first baseman/designated hitter batted .350/.362/.620 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs -- all top-10 numbers in the month of June. Lind has cooled down considerably since then, hitting 195/.263/.356 with two home runs and seven RBIs in July, while hitting 059/.158/.059 to start the month of August. Looking back at Lind's hot start, it's easy to see that it was mostly BABIP driven, with a .394 BABIP in May and a .397 BABIP in June. In July, that number dropped down to .250 and Lind's numbers began to suffer. At the start of June, Lind's 12.6% walk rate represented a career best; since then, that number has dropped by more than three percentage points, to 9.0%. Lind was also striking out less to start the year, but his 20.3% strikeout rate is now higher than his career rate of 19.4%. Unless you're looking for another lucky run out of Lind, you should search elsewhere. I think the best has already passed.

More from Fake Teams:

Alex Kantecki is a fantasy baseball writer for Fake Teams. He also writes the "Closer Chronicle" for Vigilante Baseball every Thursday, ranking and tiering all 30 MLB closers. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @rotodealer.

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